David Hockney, A Bigger Splash (1967). All images via Artnet.
Not only is the Getty the hub of activities for the Southern California-wide Pacific Standard Time (PST) programming, but it is also host to a number of events and exhibitions, including Greetings from L.A.: Artists and Publics, 1950-1980, From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column, In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980, and performances for the Performance and Public Art Festival that will take place later in January. It has also mounted the large-scale, historical exhibition Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950 -1970. With 79 works by 47 artists, the exhibition charts the unique artistic innovations that have come to define the Los Angeles art scene as well as helped to shape some of the most important art movements from the second half of the 20th century.
Although not the first large exhibition to attempt to chart this history—institutions from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris have also undertaken the challenge—Crosscurrents is perhaps the least overwhelming. In part this is because the exhibition does not carry the burden of covering everything. As one exhibition amongst over 50 that are taking place within the scope of PST, the Getty’s show has the opportunity to focus in on a particularized history: experiments, developments, and cross-influences in painting and sculpture.
Broken into five modest-sized gallery rooms and loosely organized by theme (although there are many overlaps stylistically and chronologically throughout), the exhibition includes well-known works from L.A. assemblage, California minimalism (also known as Finish Fetish or the L.A. Look), and L.A. Pop by globally recognized figures such as Judy Chicago, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, David Hockney, Ed Kienholz, Ed Moses, and Ed Ruscha, to name only a few. From Ed Ruscha’s Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas (1963) and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Fire (1965-68) to David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash (1967), there is a great amount of iconic works.
What could quickly spiral into a list of greatest hits from the L.A. scene remains grounded, though, through its startling juxtapositions—the Ruscha and Hockney pieces are displayed alongside the process-oriented abstractions of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series and the rhythmic abstractions of John Altoon—as well as its keen focus on other, lesser known parts of the region’s histories such as, for instance, their notable inclusion of ceramics on the west coast. In addition to treading the familiar territory of L.A. Pop and its heavily circulated images, Crosscurrents also relates the history of experimentation and transformation of “craft” into sculptural art form in the non-traditional, large-scale ceramic works by artists John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos. The intense exploration of and experimentation with material properties by these early figures help to frame the later perceptual and material investigations of California Minimalism, which appear in the works of Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, and John McCracken.
The exhibition is up in Los Angeles through February 5, 2012 and will then travel to the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin where it opens March 15, 2012.